What Elle Magazine Got Wrong About Feminism And Conservative Women

Interesting article in Elle magazine by Nina Burleigh (who infamously said of Clinton, "I'd be happy to give him [oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal") called The Best and the Rightest about conservative women, which featured Ashley Sewell (aka TXTrendyChick).  It's a 4 page article, but the paragraph that stuck out most for me was this one:

The young women I interviewed for this article share almost every goal of feminism. They want to be—and in many cases, already believe themselves to be—“empowered”: educationally, financially, sexually. But they resist any effort to put advancing their fellow women front and center. That means opposing everything from gender-based affirmative action, such as government-mandated quotas for female athletes under Title IX, to equal-pay-for-equal-work laws. So on the one hand they may lament that there are only a handful of female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies and only 17 female U.S. Senators—“It does matter,” Sewell says. “A woman’s perspective is different from a man’s.” But on the other hand, they’re not going to take to the ramparts to try to increase the numbers.


To the author, the only way to advance our fellow women is through laws and government mandates like affirmative action, quotas, and wage legislation.  How is that in any way empowering?  It doesn't even occur to her that you can advance women without government help.  Conservative women are not empowered by government handouts.  We want to do things on our own, not have the government give them to us.  Of course we want women to go into whatever field they want and can succeed in, play whatever sport they enjoy, and be paid based on merit, not gender.  But instead of government mandates or forcing public tax dollars on specious programs that are prone to mission creep, we turn to families, churches, and local communities to make this happen; we choose to support charities or volunteering to mentor girls.  It is ridiculous to say we "resist any effort to put advancing [our] fellow women front and center."

We also don't want our success to come at the expense of others, such as when men's sports programs are canceled because there aren't enough women's ones to match them as a result of Title IX.  It shouldn't be a zero sum game, everyone should have the chance to succeed based on desire and merit - not gender, ethnicity, etc.  The fact that women and men are different and have different interests or skills is another important factor that the author misses.  And women shouldn't be advanced just based on the fact that they're women, they have to be the best. 

I don't know what the author means by "take to the ramparts" regarding the lower numbers of women as CEOs and Senators, but it sounds like she wants us to raise hell and shakedown companies to hire based on gender or force laws requiring minimum numbers of women in government.  We're not going to elect women just because they are women, they have to share our values and be the best candidate in the race.

Meanwhile, the author ignores groups like Smart Girl Politics, which I (along with Ashley Sewell and Dana Loesch, who is mentioned in the piece, too) am a member of, a community that encourages conservative women leaders to run for office and gives them the tools, Smart Girl Politics, conservative women, Dana Loesch, Ashley Sewell, Feminists for Life, fourth wave, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, abortion, ining and support they need to make it happen.  2010 was the "Year of the Conservative Woman" with record numbers running for public office.  A woman just won the Iowa straw poll, and a second woman might be entering the presidential race soon.  These are glaring omissions.

Finally, it is interesting that in her list of "almost every goal of feminism" the author does not refer to abortion, which, ironically, to second and third wave liberal feminists, is the litmus test for bearing the title.  I attribute this to the author trying to get rid of feminism's current connotations as a dirty word along with an attempt to make the conservative women profiled in the article appear hypocritical.  On the other hand, it could be a nod to the fourth wave conservative and pro-life efforts to break the glass ceiling and finally allow diversity of thought in modern feminism.

The new movement of pro-woman, pro-life, embodied by the group Feminists for Life, is an encouraging shift from the radical feminism that has dominated since the 1960's.  We want equal rights with men, but how is abortion an equal right?  Rights do not extend to the destruction of another human, no matter what the law says.

It is important to remember that the abortion on demand version of feminism is a relatively recent development.  The suffragettes, the original "first wave" feminists, opposed abortion (all following quotes from FFL). Elizabeth Cady Stanton explicitly contrasted abortion as antithetical to the rights of women: "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."

She also used the "evil" of abortion to make the case for women's right to vote, with suffrage being the remedy to abortion: "There must be a remedy even for such a crying evil as this. But where shall it be found, at least where begin, if not in the complete enfranchisement and elevation of women?" 

Susan B. Anthony addressed what are now common modern day excuses for abortion and decried men's role in pressuring women to abort, "No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; But oh, thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!"

Finally, Alice Paul, author of the original 1923 Equal Rights Amendment, powerfully said, "Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women." 

These feminist foremothers knew - as today's pro-life feminists know - that, as opposed to helping women, abortion hurts and degrades women.  This is true feminism and I hope the "Fourth wave" wins out.

So the author of the Elle article is right that conservative women "share almost every goal of feminism," she is just wrong on which aspects of it we truly resist and how we advance women.

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